Top Ten Premier League Teenagers

We could maybe have included four or five Southampton players but in the end, restricted ourselves to just two full-backs. But the big question: Raheem Sterling or Adnan Januzaj?

Last Updated: 17/02/14 at 16:12 Post Comment

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10) John Stones (Everton)

"Peter Crouch is a lot taller than I thought,' was John Stones' reaction to making his first Premier League start at the age of 19, making him possibly the only person in England who did not realise that Peter Crouch really is rather tall indeed. Stones may not have won a great deal in the air at Stoke but, along with Antolin Alcaraz, he helped restrict Stoke to just four shots on target. He was excellent again as QPR and then Norwich were beaten in quick succession, prompting Roberto Martinez to say: "John will develop into a special centre-half for England." Just don't judge him on his 90 minutes at right-back against Liverpool.

9) Marcos Lopes (Manchester City)

Nobody else on the list can claim to have scored a hat-trick against Bayern Munich this season but that's exactly what the little Brazilian - City's reigning Academy Player of the Year - managed in the UEFA Youth League as City beat the German side 6-0 at home. You're more likely to remember him for either a) scoring a goal within two minutes of his debut at the age of 17 last year or b) creating two of City's goals in their 3-0 Capital One Cup semi-final cruise at the age of just 18 this season. Manuel Pellegrini says he's "a very important player for the future of the club" - which is as close as the Chilean gets to gushing praise.

8) Nathan Redmond (Norwich City)

You can't help thinking that Nathan Redmond is better than Norwich are allowing him to be - at Southampton he would be thriving, while at Norwich he is barely surviving as the only player with any semblance of pace. The good news for Redmond is that he is only 19 and there's plenty of time for him to work under a more imaginative and attacking manager (we were amused but unsurprised at a magazine article featuring a youthful Hughton with the headline 'Less attacking - more success'). For now he often looks Norwich's best chance of something approaching invention, with his spot at the top of their Premier League assists chart (albeit with only three) proving some evidence that a little bit of invention and dynamism can work better than just throwing in cross after cross (we're looking at you, Robert Snodgrass).

7) Calum Chambers (Southampton)

When Roy Hodgson was asked about Calum Chambers' claims for an international place, he did not dismiss them out of hand despite him having played only 15 Premier League games. That probably tells you something about the impression right-back Chambers has made while captaining the England U-19s, who have never lost with Chambers in the side. Hodgson also knows that Chambers plays second fiddle to the more experienced Nathaniel Clyne at Southampton, though some Saints fans believe that the younger man is defensively more sound. "He is a quality player, he has learned well," says Clyne. "I know there is someone on my back and that, if I don't do well, then he is going to come in." If he sounds a tad scared, it's because he should be.

6) Gerard Deulofeu (Everton)

"I can guarantee the fans they will see a very different Gerard Deulofeu and someone who is ready to be very important," said Roberto Martinez two weeks ago, acknowledging perhaps that Deulofeu had been exactly what you would expect of a precocious 19-year-old Barcelona player - a little bit patchy and more than a tad selfish. There had been games when there was end product (home v Stoke) and there had been games when there was none (home v Fulham) but one thing is for certain, Everton have missed his quick feet and variety of play in recent weeks. "His quality is sublime," said Martinez after his man-of-the-match performance against Stoke. More of that please, Gerard, and less of the shooting from silly angles.

5) Serge Gnabry (Arsenal)

Yaya Sanogo, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Serge Gnabry were three of the players on the shortlist for the Golden Boy award last year. Nope. Us neither. But after extensive research (Wikipedia) we have discovered that it's a young player accolade voted for by journalists across Europe and it was eventually won by Isco. Every day is a school day and all that. Anyway, the 18-year-old German has found himself in the right place at the right time for Arsenal this season as they have suffered injuries to their mosy dynamic players (Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, The Ox) and has not looked out of place while starring against Tottenham in the FA Cup and against the likes of Stoke, Swansea and Fulham in the Premier League, all of which have struggled to cope with his youthful exuberance.

4) Nabil Bentaleb (Tottenham)

"I didn't expect that at all," said Nabil Bentaleb, echoing the thoughts of just about everybody else in football, most of whom had never even heard of a midfielder who has recently committed his international future to Algeria, despite Tim Sherwood's fanciful notion that he could get into France's World Cup squad. Sherwood brought Bentaleb off the bench in his first match in charge - ahead of Etienne Capoue (who might still go to the World Cup with France) - and has pretty much stuck with him ever since. He looked lost in the 5-1 mauling by Manchester City but he was not alone; he has looked considerably better and more composed when part of a midfield three, though there is a suspicion that he is very much of the Tom Cleverley safety sideways brigade. We might not be so impressed if he's still pulling the same trick at 24.

3) Luke Shaw (Southampton)

"Luke Shaw is the obvious one (to bring in) because he has been playing last season and has been in the team non-stop since the start of this season," said England boss Roy Hodgson when asked about Southampton's trio of full-backs, sparking obituaries for Ashley Cole's England career. That may be a tad previous but Shaw has been ridiculouly good for an 18-year-old left-back. Scratch that, he's been ridiculously good for any aged left-back. He rarely gets caught out of position, he's excellent going forward (without the giddiness of youth) and he has the arse of a much bigger man. That will confuse the opposition, if nothing else.

2) Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)

'He may already be tentatively compared with Lionel Messi,' wrote Patrick Barkley in October after Adnan Januzaj's two goals against Sunderland. We hope that's a whole heap of tentative he's using there, because the comparison is frankly preposterous. Januzaj is a very exciting 19-year-old who has brought hope where's there's been precious little to be found for Manchester United this season - and he certainly looks good when compared with the limitations of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia - but Januzaj is a long way from turning Messi-like promise into Messi-like results. He is potentially one of the outstanding players of his generation but let's just hold fire with unhelpful comparisons until he's had more than a handful of excellent games, please.

1) Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)

Before December, Raheem Sterling's only Premier League start came as a wing-back against Crystal Palace. It was not going well for the player who had been sidelined by Brendan Rodgers after losing his initial mojo. Since December he has delivered five Premier League goals and three assists while becoming a key part of Liverpool's dynamic new counter-attacking style, adding decision-making to the raw pace that had always been his hallmark. So what changed? "I wasn't confident enough to have a shot myself and instead I'd pass it to someone like Luis Suarez. I needed to be more confident again - you have to respect the senior players around you but you have to stamp your own mark on the game." It's fair to say he's done that.

Sarah Winterburn

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Readers' Comments

C

lassic management. Build them up and then knock them back. Raise expectations and then dampen them. Create a dynamic where by you demand the most from your team, but where the team are given room to manoeuvre unexpected or unwanted results. Classy work by Van Gaal, he really reminds me a lot of me. A smart cookie, make no doubt.

hump3.
Van Gaal: 'I struggle for first three months'

H

e will be the England left back for ten years or more, and then you will have to thank MUFC for that. *smiles*

london saint
Shaw: Criticism spot on

P

urely because of that little diva moment he had last night, I don't want him coming to my club. DESTROYED ? Grow up and give something back to the club that helped put you up there on the world stage.

bale doubt
Saints' Schneiderlin stalemate

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